DAYTON — A federal magistrate judge has granted a depositional stay to two Beavercreek police officers in a civil lawsuit filed against the officers related to the shooting death of John Crawford III.
U.S. Magistrate Judge Michael Newman ruled on the request Dec. 31, granting the stay of deposition requested by legal counsel for officer Sean Williams and Sgt. David Darkow for 90 days, at the conclusion of which the two can ask for an extension of the delay.
In his ruling, Newman noted that the case’s Aug. 31, 2016, discovery deadline is approximately nine months away and wrote that “such a short, limited stay does not significantly impede upon plaintiffs’ interests in expeditiously prosecuting the case.”
Crawford was shot and killed by Williams in the Beavercreek Wal-Mart Aug. 5, 2014, with Darkow standing nearby. Officers were brought to the store after a 911 caller alerted police to a man waving a rifle at store customers. Police say Crawford was shot after he didn’t respond to their commands to put down the rifle, which was later discovered to be a BB gun he picked up off a store shelf.
The initial request by the officers to delay case discovery proceedings came in relation to an ongoing investigation into Crawford’s death being conducted by the U.S. Department of Justice.
While a Greene County grand jury considered the case in September 2014 and declined to return an indictment against the officers involved in the shooting, the two could still potentially face federal charges if the DOJ investigation determined any federal laws had been broken.
“Because the federal criminal investigation remains ongoing, defendants are faced with the impossible and conflicting decision to invoke their Fifth Amendment privilege against self-incrimination and forgo the opportunity to defend themselves in this civil case or waive their privilege and potentially face criminal charges based upon their own testimony in this case,” a document filed by the officers’ legal counsel stated in the initial request for the delay.
Attorneys for the Crawford family argued against the stay in response, noting that the officers had previously made other statements in relation to Crawford’s death. Crawford attorneys also noted in their response that the two officers are “key” to the case and that “substantial delay can lead to the loss of evidence and documents as well as faded memories that can frustrate plaintiff’s ability to meet their burden of proof.”
Under the ruling, Crawford attorneys could still depose other parties in the lawsuit. The civil lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court in Dayton, listed 17 counts against the defendants, ranging from assault and battery against the officers directly involved in the shooting, to negligent training and supervision against Beavercreek Police Chief Dennis Evers and the City of Beavercreek, to negligence against Wal-Mart, as well as other charges.
In the lawsuit documents, the family asked for a jury trial and compensatory damages in excess of $75,000.
Reach Nathan Pilling at 937-502-4498 or on Twitter @XDGNatePilling.